How legit are the Bulls?

How legit are the Bulls?

The Chicago Bulls overcame a slow start to keep the game interesting then mauled Dallas in the fourth quarter. The Bulls have now won two straight against Western Conference playoff teams and own an overall record of 32-26, six games over .500. It makes you wonder, what if the Bulls didn't go through that mental hangover after Rose was hurt.

Remember that? That stretch where Chicago couldn't get their crap together and lost to Utah, Milwaukee, New York, Cleveland, and a bunch of crap teams. That stretch where tanking for a top three pick seemed like a realistic option. It seems so long ago, so foreign.

Now? The Bulls are playing some pretty good basketball. They don't look like an elite team. Miami just housed them with LeBron James in street clothes, but they sure look like a team who belongs in the playoffs. Since they started getting their shit together around January 1st, the Bulls are 5-2 against Western Conference playoff teams and 12-5 against all playoff teams they've faced.

Granted most of their wins weren't coming against the best of the best, but the Bulls definitely belong. They may not be a serious title threat, but they're certainly no less serious than the other six teams in the East in the playoff race, and I can't say they're any worse than the bottom three-four playoff teams in the West either.

In the end, the Chicago Bulls, even without Rose, even without Deng, might be a top 10 team in the NBA. Tom Thibodeau is a bad ass.

Interesting that he's denying rumors now...

Tom Thibodeau wasn't really speaking out much about the rumors of him leaving and was always giving answers with wiggle room up until recently. Paxson was recently on the radio noting he feels these rumors were planted by another team.

Notice how both management and the coaching staff seem to have come together a bit more after the team started winning? If you're a conspiracy theorist you might note that the fracture appeared much greater while the team was in the tank.

Well of course management doesn't want to lose Thibodeau now. Now the team is playing well, and he's proven that he hasn't lost them despite the changes to the organization. As for Thibodeau, the same is true for him. His team has responded to him, and he knows help and a better roster is likely to come next season.

In short, I don't know that there was ever a chance Thibs was leaving, but if there was, the quality play eliminated it and made everyone pretend it was never there to begin with.

Jimmer Fredette officially agrees to unofficial contract with Chicago, you know, allegedly

So basically, the word is that Fredette will sign with the Bulls as soon as he clears waivers. The Bulls and Fredette have agreed that he'll come, but it can't be made official yet.

I'm excited to see how he does. The Bulls definitely can use his shooting, and the only question will be who's minutes he takes on the floor. However, for a team frequently lacking depth, scoring, and three point shooting, Fredette looks like he can add all three for the Bulls.

It's a nice signing, and a good show by management that they're willing to take a risk (however small) that they might pay the luxury tax this season, since they're now on the hook if Gibson makes the 1st team defensive squad. That doesn't seem overwhelmingly likely, since you'd have to figure Noah would get in ahead of him on reputation alone, but there is some chance of that.

Kirk Hinrich is fricken ballin out there

I've been on of the strong critics of Kirk Hinrich at times. His shot has frequently been broke, he often misses time with injury, and he doesn't have all that great of vision for a point guard. However, after a slow start, the Bulls turn around in fortunes certainly has quite a bit to do with Kirk Hinrich playing like it was 2006/2007.

His three point shooting has been much better, he's actually getting to the basket a bit, and his defense has been tremendous. He's always left it all on the floor, but now his effort seems to be yielding much better results. The Bulls are so much more dangerous when Kirk is drilling outside shots, and he just looks healthier and more athletic on the court than he has in awhile.

I don't trust Kirk to keep it up, but he's playing really well right now.

Heading to sunny Mexico

I will be heading out to Mexico on vacation for the next week. This likely means limited watching Bulls games for me [though I did set it up to stream them to my laptop] and probably a bit less posting than normal. I'll still probably try to write an article at least once every two days assuming there's something interesting to say.

We'll see how it all goes. If you don't hear from me for a few days, then we'll just hope that I'm sipping margaritas on the beach and not captured by a drug cartel.

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    Good post. I like and share your enthusiasm on the new look Bulls. Everyone, seems to be stepping up their games this year. And as sorry as their shooting looks at times, they continue to score 100 pts since the departure of hold the ball too long Luol Deng. They just beat a really good Dallas Mavs team, and did it by overcoming a 16 pt deficit. The game before that they shut down one of the leagues premier shooting teams in GSW. And to Kirk Hinrich...Excuse me for doubting you. You are the Man on defense. This team has changed our minds, and removed our doubts about the tanking theory. Thibodeau is doing wonders to keep this team focused on winning the championship. He should be on Chicago's Mt Rushmore of coaches after this season. Amazing!

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    Who would that mt. Rushmore include? .....

  • In reply to Villageworker2:

    Phil Jackson for sure; George Hallas for sure; Quenville, tho I'd like to see another Stanley Cup to solidify this one. And one more -- Jerry Krause, as a GM, not a coach, of course!

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Jackson and Halas are our Washington and Lincoln, the other 2 spots are harder to peg.

    Thibs probably has to win at least one championship to get on the mountain. If guys without them qualify, then Dick Motta would have to be considered ahead of Thibs right now. No way is Krause getting anywhere near my mountain given how much of a pain in the ass he was.

    To me you can't leave Ditka off, he's the obvious 3rd choice, we've only won one super bowl, and that 85 Bears team is arguably the most legendary team in all of Chicago sports history.

    So that only leaves one spot for Thibs, Motta, Quenville or whomever else you might think of from the Cubs or White Sox. Does college count, what about Ray Meyer at DePaul.

  • In reply to Villageworker2:

    Good question.

    Mount rushmore of Chicago coaches:
    Mike Ditka, Phil Jackson, Ozzie Guillen, and Joe Quenville

    Probably not fair to include Halas, whom I feel is more of a pioneer type for being one of the original owners/coaches guys in football before it became the megasport it is today, but it's a different animal winning titles when there are 8-10 teams in the league, no salary cap, etc...

    I also think Ozzie's sort of an odd choice given his total lack of longevity, and I'm not sure he's a actually that great a manager. However, when he was here he was the face of that team, and that team won a title, and by the way, it's the only title in the last 210 or so attempts by our two baseball teams combined. Historically, he's no where near as important as Halas, but I also like to rate guys I've actually watched or have some memory of.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Apparently Ozzie Guillen is your Ben Gordon of coaches

  • I've had my doubts. But now I'm a believer!

  • I would not be surprised if Hinrich resigns for less money. Reinsdorf likes him, he’s a Midwest guy, was a Bulls fan as a kid, who raises his family in Chicago, I see Hinrich having a place within Bulls organization after his playing days.

    Unlike Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, when Hinrich's rookie contract was due for an extension Hinrich signed before his final contract year began, instead of playing out his final year and testing free agency to squeeze an extra $1 - $2 million per out of Reinsdorf. That matters within the organization, I think.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2645083

    Noah and Gibson did the same as Hinrich, Butler's up next.

  • In reply to Edward:

    I agree that the Bulls will have an interest in bringing Hinrich back, the question is at what level, will he go for the vets minimum, can we use the bi-annual exception on our own player, what about the room exception? Personally, I wouldn't go over $2 million per, about half of what he makes now. If they bring him back, does that affect DJ's coming back, what about if we end up liking Jimmer? If you have to chose one over the other, you almost have to go wit DJ just because of age, which would also argue for Hinrich being worth no more than the vets minimum. This will certainly be the most interesting Bulls offseason since 2010, at least we will have something to keep us going during the long hot summer.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    For Hinrich, I had that $2 mil limit in my mind as well. And I agree that Jimmer could derail a Hinrich resigning. I think it depends on Hinrich, does he want to play elsewhere for more money or stay at home for the min? Hinrich never moved his family away from Chicago when he was traded away for 2010 free agency.

    It seems to me Bulls have been in a holding pattern since 2010 free agency. Bulls went all-in and got their ass kicked. Not much of any significance (long-term) has been added to Bulls roster since. Most additions have been of the futuristic kind (Charlotte pick, draft day trade up for Mirotic, Sacramento pick) or 1 year vet mins. Bulls have been handicapped by the contracts of Boozer and Deng. The Deng trade broke the stagnation, and I agree this 2014 off-season will be the most interesting since 2010. Hopefully, with a much better result.

    The big question remains, will Reinsdorf pay $16 million to Boozer for the privilege of overpaying a free agent or overpaying Mirotic (rather than the MLE). I suppose there is an outside chance of adding a proven impact player, for which I believe Bulls would amnesty Boozer, but that’s a long-shot. I'm thinking Bulls may keep Boozer on the roster next season and attempt to use him in trade as an expiring. This depends on Mirotic agreeing to the MLE, which I believe Bulls would have if they keep Boozer, but not if they amnesty him.

    I'm not saying this is my preference, just that I could seeing Bulls taking this path. I've doubted Reinsdorf would pay Boozer $16 million to not play, seems out-of-character.

  • In reply to Edward:

    I think the Bulls best case scenario comes with not amnestying boozer. If you get Mirotic in on the MLE then you have Boozer as trade bait this year as a large expiring. I think that works much better for Chicago. You then still have the BAE as well, and the Bulls will bring in two rookies with potential, so they probably won't need any more low level players outside of what they can find for the vet min.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    It seems to me that expiring contracts have lost most of their value under the new CBA. It is an asset as salary cap balast if a potential free agent wants to force his way off of their current team, i.e the Kevin Love situation next year, but other than those specific circumstances nobody seems to have any interest in them anymore.

    Plus, if Mirotic comes on board, you need a scoring 2 guard a lot more than you need boozer who becomes actually useless next year, rather than just fundamentally useless now. There really isn't enough playing time for Taj, Mirotic and boozer, unless boozer replaces Naz as Noah's backup. That's a pretty limited role for the $17 million man, nevermind that he'd probably go apeshit for having to play that role.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I think that Kevin Love type scenario is exactly the type of situation Bulls will be thinking of if they choose to keep Boozer. How else can Bulls acquire a true-difference-maker? Is there any other way? I don't see one. For that chance alone, slim as it may be, its worth keeping Boozer on the roster. Bulls have got to pay him either way!

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I think if the Wolves feel they have to move Love it happens this off-season. Way easier to work a deal when there will be a bunch of teams out there with cap space. So the Bulls should know whether they are keeping Boozer for that purpose before they have to make an amnesty decision.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I agree with you, except that the first situation you mention is the exact reason I'd want Boozer on the roster.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Glad you see it that way too, Doug. We all know Bulls haven't fared well with big FA signings and the FAs are usually overpaid.

    Bulls are now showing they can add role-player-talent at bargain prices. The elusive need remains another true-difference-maker! Mirotic on the MLE and using Boozer as a trade chip (expiring) seem Bulls only legitimate shots at that difference-maker.

    I guess draft night and the February 2015 deadline are the two main trade times so we'll just have to wait and see what Bulls can pull off with Boozer and their first round picks (Charlotte, Sac, and their own).

    It's not something that's been discussed much, but amnestying Boozer when he becomes an expiring would squander a trade asset. And it is just so out-of-character for Reinsdorf to throw around $16 million like its lunch money. I always doubted he would amnesty.

  • In reply to Edward:

    I guess I am missing something or more than one thing here on Boozer. Help me out here, please.
    1) How is Boozer a trade asset if no one wants his almost $17 salary for next year? Who cares if it's expiring, it is still a ton of money for what he does and does not do.
    2) Could the Bulls bring over Mirotic on the MLE and then amnesty Boozer? In that case, they could do it and then offer Carmelo $17 million per.
    3) Or the Bulls could amnesty the Booz, sign Mirotic, and then maybe Stephenson. If Steph continues to progress, the Bulls could become the best in the EC as early as next year.

    Obviously, keeping Boozer eliminates 2) and 3), so I do not think keeping him will happen.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Make that almost $17 million salary for next year. I would keep him for $17 for the year.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Whether Boozer is amnestied or not, Bulls still must pay his salary. Sometimes we fans forget this.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I don't think you can bring Hinrich back for more than the minimum next season. I suppose it will depend how well he plays over the rest of the year though. If he keeps up this pace, some other team may look to pay him more.

    As for the Hinrich himself, I don't know how he's spent his money, but after getting the one big deal + his rookie deal + the eight million he just scored, I'd wonder if he'd give up a million or two to stay in Chicago. It's hard to see another team giving him 2/8 like the Bulls did a couple years ago, and if it's the vet min, that's probably around 1.2-1.3 for his years (just guessing) and giving up 800k to stay in Chicago might b something that's not all that hard for him to justify.

    He probably can do some local ads here too that he'd never be able to do anywhere else simply because the city does love him and he has history.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    I agree, Hinrich seems like a Chicago/Bulls lifer, the next Paxson.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Given what the Bulls have been able to get out of cheap off casts at PG, and that Hinrich is (his little hot streak aside) clearly declining he can't be worth more than the minimum to the Bulls. Really he's at the stage of his career where he should be the third string who can step up into second string if Rose gets injured yet again.

    That said I think the Bulls love him and that he'll be back clanking open threes next year.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Hinrich definitely has a job waiting with the Bulls in some capacity if he wants one.

  • You're the man Doug! Enjoy your vacation!

  • Welcome back to Saturday Doug, enjoy your vacation, hope that the Bulls with 3 winnable games this week don't dampen your enjoyment of it.

    Can't miss the improvement in Hinrich's play, I wonder if it is due to the addition of DJ to the rotation, thus keeping Hinrich's minutes down to under 30 per game. Kind of suggests that minutes do matter, and even a few extra per game over the course of a season can be significant, especially when your not a teenager anymore.

    Trying not to get too drunk on the current koolaide as we have that 8 game stretch coming up where we basically play the top 4 teams from both conferences all in a row. That has to bring our record back down to earth, along with our spirits.

    This Bulls team needs all hands on deck to prosper, can't afford even a single injury at this point, and the addition of Jimmer can't help but help even if it is just in the body count department. It will be interesting to see if he is any better than Snell or not, which would qualify him as our 8th man.

    There is no way that Gibson would deserve 1st team all defense ahead of Noah, and I can't see anyway that 2 of the 3 front court spots go to Bulls. Although, I suppose that Noah could lose out to another center, while Taj could be judged to be better than the other forwards. However, its hard to see him beating out either Lebron or Ibaka, but after that I could see him making second team.

    One comment on last nights game, watching how easy Nowitski can score on his own, made me hope that Mirotic can be that type of offensive player for the Bulls. Remember, Nowitski wasn't that great right away in the NBA, and I am not sure that he was the more accomplished player prior to coming to the NBA. A good sign is that Sam Smith doesn't think that much of him(Mirotic). kind of like he doesn't think that John Wall is even a basketball player.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    The way Dirk is still going strong he may yet finish top 5 all time in points. That's a pretty high bar of expectation for Mirotic.

    The Euro I'd be happy with as his upside is Stojakovic. Was a damn good player in his prime, averaged ~20 PPG on ~60 TS% over a five year span. I think Stojakovic's game might be closer than Dirk's too. Dirk is a good three point shooter but uses the shot fairly sparingly - less than 20% of his attempts. Stojakovic was closer to the 40% mark, which is the sort of shot distribution I think Mirotic will need to be successful in the NBA.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    I really wasn't looking at it from a career achievement perspective. I was looking his role with the Bulls, at the type of player/scorer that he might be.

    I meant similar to Dirk in being able to score easily on his own, not really needing a system to get him shots. Stojakovic was more of the pure shooter, who needed his team to get his points. Haven't seen Mirotic play so I have no idea about the style of his game, or how it will translate and evolve to the NBA. Some of it probably depends on how tall he really is. the shorter he is the more of a pure 3 point shooter type he will be(Stojakovic), the taller he is the more likely that he will develop a post/mid range game to compliment his 3 point shooting(Nowitski).

    But you are right, Stojakovic was a hell of a shooter in his time, and it wouldn't suck if we got that from Mirotic, but we probably need more than that to elevate us to a championship team, either from Mirotic himself, or from another star player.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I'm more worried how well his range extends to the NBA three point line than if he'll develop a post game to create his own shots.

    I'm not really sold on the idea that the Bulls have needed a second shot creator. I think the Bulls have done a decent job at creating shots most of the time, what they've lacked is guys who can finish them. Deng, Butler, Hinrich, those guys have passed up plenty of good shots that shooters would take and make.

    Rose has never really had shooters before. If Mirotic can be a three point threat at the PF spot and the Bulls can also keep a shooter out there at one (or both!) of the wing spots then it'll be a different game for Rose. This is a team that really wasn't far away before the Rose injuries. Shooting might be all they need.

    Of course a lot depends on Rose getting back to something like what he was.

  • Yeah the Bulls are pretty good, probably third best in the East, but it's hard to take much joy in competing for bronze when you knew you had the chance to go for gold.

    I said back when it looked like tanking that Noah was the perfect tank guy - he's the sort that has an on/off switch for intensity when the games matter, and if the team looks like tanking he'll coast. Seems Noah decided he didn't want to be that guy. IMO that's the major factor having the Bulls third best team in the East.

    I'd still be happier if they'd tanked it and I think this season is a bad move in the long run but what can you do? If the players want to win they want to win.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Don't see Noah in that way at all. He said it himself there is no way he was accepting tanking from anybody associated with the Bulls. If he thought that management was tanking on purpose, he'd play even harder as an FU to them.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    After Rose went down he wasn't playing well at all - to me he looked like someone who had given up a bit and had decided "why bother, we're cursed". Maybe it was a bit of lacking pre-season fitness, maybe it was temporary depression, in any case he's playing the best of his career now.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Your right, he didn't look like himself, but he has been notoriously slow at getting back into game shape after injuries. He seems to get out of shape incredibly fast. While he may have been in a bit of a mental funk watching Rose go down for the second time, I think that it just took him a long time to come back after missing the entire preseason.

  • Good to see the Jimmer signing seems to have happened - he's been a victim of the if you're taken in the lottery you're expected to be starter quality expectations. If he was a guy taken in the second round with no expectations you'd say he's someone who is trending up and looks a legit rotation guy.

    Whether Thibs trusts him enough to play him will be another question. Maybe he'll get a few seconds while he rests Butler. ;)

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Yea, I saw a stat breakdown on him that showed his per 36 numbers this year as the best of his career, his pp36 was 18.7, which I believe would be the highest on the Bulls.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yeah, but he barely played this year, so I'd take those with a grain of salt. That said, his PP36 was over 18 last year, but the combined minutes he's had over the two seasons is what a role player would typically get in a single season, so even using both years, it's a small sample size.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Grain of salt taken, but it has to be somewhat of an indication that he has the ability to play the "Vinnie the microwave" role that we've lacked without Nate, or dare I say since Ben Gordon was coming off the bench. The question is can he do it consistently.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I agree.

    The Bulls have no depth anyway left on the team. I think Jimmer gives them some depth, some shooting, and a bit of shot creation (probably not a whole lot), and the Bulls need all three.

    He'll likely be a defensive problem, but it's easier to live with one defensive problem on the perimeter when you can throw out a lineup of Hinrich, Jimmer, Butler, Gibson, and Noah. Or even replacing Hinrich with Augustin and having one great perimeter defender and two great help defenders.

    Chicago's defense has always had a few lousy guys in it (Korver, Gordon, Boozer, Watson [though he progressed], Robinson, etc..) and have never been hurt by that because the backbone is still always elite.

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